Begin with the end in mind

Quick Summary: In whatever you do, begin with the end in mind. This will bring clarity of purpose, and help you along the journey.

Beginning with the end in mind is a powerful principle that encourages us to envision our desired outcome or goal before embarking on a journey or task. It helps clarify our objectives, set a clear direction, and then align our actions with the ultimate vision we have for ourselves. By adopting this mindset, we can make deliberate choices and take intentional steps that lead us closer to our desired destination.

When we start projects or embark on a journey, we often do not know where we are going, or what we hope to accomplish. That’s ok– sometimes. However, it can be challenging to make decisions along the way if we lack a clear sense of what we are trying to accomplish. Beginning with the end in mind allows us to visualize the end, and understand what success looks like. If we have a sense of what we are working towards, decision-making along the way gets easier.

Thinking through the end state solves the problem of aimless and unfocused efforts. We often struggle with a lack of direction and purpose, which can lead to a sense of confusion, wasted time, and unproductive actions. When we have a clear sense of what we want the end to look like, we can overcome these challenges by setting clear goals and objectives. If we know what our desired outcome looks like, we have a clear guide to our decision-making and actions.

Knowing what we want the end to look like helps us plan effectively. Without a clear vision of the end result, it is difficult to develop a comprehensive strategy or identify the necessary steps to achieve their goals. This mindset enables us to work backward from the desired outcome, helping us create actionable plans and anticipate potential obstacles.

Understanding our end goal can also help with motivation. When we lack a clear vision of our goal, we sometimes struggle to stay committed and focused, especially in the face of challenges or setbacks. By envisioning the end result, we can tap into our intrinsic motivation and maintain our determination and perseverance throughout our journey.

Envisioning the end result can help us explore different possibilities and think outside the box. Sometimes, really reflecting on what the end goal is can help us realize that perhaps, we are pursuing the wrong things. If I achieved X, how would I feel? How would my life be different? Perhaps, this end goal is less important, or less desirable than we thought.

While it is tempting to apply this to work and productivity (in fact, it’s particularly helpful in that context), it is much more broadly helpful. Suppose, for example, you are taking a vacation to Hawaii. How would you like to feel while you are there? How about when you get back? On the plane ride back, what would make you say, “That was a fantastic trip?” Understanding this can help you plan your time, spend your money, and make decisions along the way. Is X bringing me close to this end?

To take another example, suppose you are young (or in a life transition), and unsure what you hope for in the next phase of life. Starting with the end in mind could be helpful as a process of discovery, At the end of this process, I’d like more clarity about what I would like to pursue next. Then, you can organize a process around that end state– clarity. Or in a relationship, the end goal might be I want to feel cared for and supported by this person, and I’d like them to feel the same way about me. With that understanding of the end state, the path forward often becomes more clear. In fact, discovery itself could be the goal. The end might be I’d like to discover new places or ideas.

The end does not have to be an achievement or an accomplishment. It can be a feeling, or state of being. The end goal might be happiness. Working backward from that could lead to questions such as What makes me happy? and that in turn can lead to concrete actions to take, such as spending more time with friends. Starting with the end in mind does not mean that the journey is solely focused on the destination. Instead, helps guide the journey. The end becomes a guiding light, but this does not have to come at the exclusion of the present moment.

At Sequoia MD, we usually think of our end goal as helping our patients live healthy, happy, meaningful lives. This is the end state we are aiming at, and we then work back from there.

So, what are the challenges you are facing, or the projects you are starting, or the decisions you need to make? What does the end look like? What does success, or happiness, look like? If you know, great, start working backward from there. If that end state isn’t clear, would gaining clarity around it help?

-Dr. Justin